The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

My Ultimate Championship predictions – Conference

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Reminder: the deadline for Conference predictions (along with Europe predictions) is Friday 10th August at midnight. Entries will be accepted after but will be subject to points penalties.

The Conference National or Premier has been part of the Ultimate Championship since the second edition in 2005-06. This year, it gets its own competition as the main championship is once again focused on the Football League. Alongside this are the sixth tier leagues. I have nearly added Conference North and South on a couple of occasions in the past as a “random factor”, but instead I added it as a cup bonus last year. This year, they get their debut alongside the Conference Premier, and will no doubt still be a random factor as I know next to nothing about them.

Conference Premier

1. Wrexham
2. Luton Town
3. Mansfield Town
4. Grimsby Town
5. Kidderminster Harriers
6. Cambridge United
7. Forest Green Rovers
8. Gateshead
9. Stockport County
10. Woking
11. Hereford United
12. Southport
13. Hyde
14. Lincoln City
15. Newport County
16. Braintree Town
17. Dartford
18. Macclesfield Town
19. Ebbsfleet United
20. Nuneaton Town
21. Barrow
22. Tamworth
23. AFC Telford United
24. Alfreton Town

Wrexham were desperately unlucky last year – comfortably clear of everyone else but beaten by an exceptional Fleetwood side, and then had the unfortunate luck of being drawn in the play-offs against a Luton side that hit form after Paul Buckle replaced Gary Brabin at the helm. I expect it to be between these two sides for the title this time, and I’m going with Wrexham because they were so good for all of last year. Buckle has again been given carte blanche by his club, and there is always the risk that Luton could end up like Bristol Rovers last year, although this time I doubt it.

The chasing pack has the same usual contenders. Some of the ex-FL clubs are getting their acts together and I can see Grimsby in particular making strides. Forest Green are now a relatively wealthy club which explains their sudden surge in form. Stockport will probably do a bit better after the chaos of the first half of last season. Lincoln will be steadier too.

The clubs I worry about are the two sides relegated this year, especially with the Conference proving such a difficult league in recent years for ex-FL clubs to settle in. Macclesfield in particular are a small club for the Conference and it’s been a long time since they were down there. I can see them down the bottom. Hereford might join them but I think they’re more likely to be mid-table.

Of the promoted sides, Woking blitzed Conference South and have plenty of experience in this league. I can see them doing well. Hyde have the backing of Manchester City (or did have) so I can’t see them flopping entirely. Given recent form for promoted sides to do well, I can’t see Dartford or Nuneaton going down either.

Instead, I’ve definitely got my money on Tamworth to go; their form in the second half was poor. Telford struggled in their first season in the Conference since liquidation and could find the second year a struggle, as could Alfreton. Barrow did well last year but I think this year could be a return to form; they are a good bet to not lose points by putting them down there.

Conference North

1. FC Halifax Town
2. Guiseley
3. Chester
4. Gainsborough Trinity
5. Altrincham
6. Droylsden
7. Stalybridge Celtic
8. Brackley TOwn
9. Bishop’s Stortford
10. Boston United
11. Colwyn Bay
12. Worcester City
13. Workington
14. Gloucester City
15. Corby Town
16. Harrogate Town
17. Oxford City
18. Solihull Moors
19. Bradford Park Avenue
20. Histon
21. Hinckley Town
22. Vauxhall Motors

A tough one this – another competitive league. Halifax are my tip for the top, because they have upward mobility, history, and a solid fanbase. They will be at least be a solid Conference club in the years to come. They were one of a gaggle of clubs towards the top last year and I expect them to be roughly the same again, though this time joined by Chester, another refounded ex-FL club who have been shooting up through the leagues since liquidation.

Towards the bottom, who knows? Genuinely stumped by this. It doesn’t help that the relegated clubs due to enter this league, Kettering and Darlington have been kicked out.

Conference South

1. Chelmsford City
2. Welling United
3. Dover Athletic
4. Eastleigh
5. Bath City
6. Salisbury City
7. Sutton United
8. Basingstoke Town
9. Tonbridge Angels
10. Billericay Town
11. Hayes & Yeading United
12. Eastbourne Borough
13. Havant & Waterlooville
14. AFC Hornchurch
15. Farnborough
16. Weston-super-Mare
17. Dorchester Town
18. Staines Town
19. Boreham Wood
20. Bromley
21. Truro City
22. Maidenhead United

This seems to be a tad easier to predict, maybe because I know a little more than for Conference North. I’ve gone with Chelmsford to win the league, as I did last year, because they’re a strong club in the league. The same could be said of Welling and Dover. Bath are up there too after their relegation, though not Hayes & Yeading.

At the bottom, two names stand out. Truro are in financial trouble, so I’m gambling on that remaining the case. Maidenhead got a reprieve last year after finishing 20th, so the odds suggest they’ll be down there again.

FA Trophy: I’m going for Cambridge United, but the FA Trophy is so unpredictable at this time of year, I could have gone for any top 10 Conference side.


Written by James Bennett

August 6, 2012 at 18:30

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